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Democrats Take Control Of State Senate, With Smith At The Helm

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After 44 years in the political wilderness, Democrats took the state senate Wednesday in a historic changing of the guard.

"I never thought in my life, when I was born that I would be standing being able to preside over the 232nd session of the State of New York," said Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

With Smith's elevation, Democrats who are now predominantly from downstate, now hold all the levers of state power.

Long Island Republican Dean Skelos now leads a group in exile.

"I would be not be telling you the truth if I certainly did not feel some emotion in terms of the change as did member sin our conference but life goes on," said Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos.

"The question really is gonna be for the Democrats is can they work together, can they deliver in a way that we haven't seen in New York. If they don't they pay a political price. Sadly, New Yorkers pay a price too," said Blair Horner, NYPIRG.

Despite his city pedigree, Smith and his partners promised help to ailing parts of upstate, with reforms that minimize party rule.

"This state will work together with the principal that the whole state is as good as its weakest link," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Elsewhere, the new third man in the room calls interstate high speed rail a pet project. Education for poorer kids, rent control and the Rockefeller-era drug laws also stand to change.

But Smith's own senate Democrats haven't been entirely united behind him and he'll have to deal with a few controversial members.

Chief among them, Hiram Monserrate of Queens, who was sworn in even as he faces charges of assaulting his companion.

"My constituents in the 13th Senatorial District have elected me. I am here to do the job of state senator. This is a historic moment for the Democrats in the State of New York and I look forward to representing my constituents," said Monserrate.

While Republicans could lose more members to retirement, Democrats now have just a slim advantage.

As some note, the last time the Democrats held the senate in the 1960's, their control lasted but a single year.

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